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With Budget Cuts, House Panel Scolds Troubled Smithsonian

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 24, 2007

The House subcommittee that approves funding for the federal cultural agencies yesterday voted to reprimand the Smithsonian Institution by cutting $26 million from its proposed fiscal 2008 budget.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies announced it made the 4 percent cut "based on significant problems of governance and fiscal policies at the institution."

"We are acutely aware of the committee's concerns and the regents have set up two committees that are working on aggressive schedules to address these issues," said Carolyn Martin, spokeswoman for the Smithsonian.

Since the White House asked Congress in February to give the Smithsonian $678 million, the museum complex has been roiled by reports of lavish expense accounts and poor management.

The top official, Secretary Lawrence M. Small, resigned in March after published reports and congressional questions about his $2 million in expenditures, including $90,000 in unauthorized expenses and a sizable housing allowance. A Senate panel called the acting secretary, Cristián Samper, and two members of the Board of Regents, the museum's governing board, to a hearing and demanded to know the extent of the problems.

That was followed by the resignation last week of Gary M. Beer, chief executive officer of Smithsonian Business Ventures, the for-profit division of the Smithsonian. Beer will leave in September. His spending is also being reviewed by internal and congressional offices.

The subcommittee forwarded a target of $652 million for the Smithsonian to the full House Appropriations Committee. The House and Senate must reach an agreement on the 2008 amount.

Meanwhile, the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts received raises from the panel. Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.), the subcommittee chairman, recommended increases above the White House request.

The arts endowment won $160 million, a $35 million increase over the previous budget. The president had asked for $128 million. If that amount survives the appropriations process, it would be the largest increase ever in the arts agency's history.

The humanities endowment also was voted $160 million, $19 million more than the administration's request of $141 million. The Kennedy Center was voted $43 million; the president had requested $39 million.

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